“My Favorite Year” (1982) dir. Richard Benjamin


One of the best films about the art / history of comedy, as well as the early days of TV is director Richard Benjamin’s hilarious and touching 1982 film “My Favorite Year.” The unspoken denominator in this enterprise is (uncredited) producer Mel Brooks. Mel Brooks was a comedy writer for Sid Caesar’s early TV show “Your Show of Shows,” which the film’s show within a show “The King Kaiser Show” is based on.

Mark Linn-Baker (as rookie writer Benjy Stone) is the obvious Brooks stand-in, trying to keep notorious debauched movie star Alan Swann (brilliantly played by Peter O’Toole based on debauched real-life movie star Errol Flynn) sober and on schedule for his appearance on the show. However, the constantly drunk Swann has other plans.

“My Favorite Year” may not be perfect … or even a great film, but it’s one of those films that always puts me in a good mood. And it earned Peter O’Toole a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1982.  The film also resurrected Lainie Kazan’s career, who plays Benjy’s overbearing, but loving mom.  Kazan resurrected the role in the 1992 Broadway musical adaptation of the film.

8. “The Stunt Man” (1980) dir. Richard Rush


Number 8 on Dave’s Strange World’s list of 10 favorite films comes Richard Rush’s bats–t crazy masterpiece from 1980, “The Stunt Man.” I saw this when it was in theaters in the fall of 1980, thanks to my Dad. Back in the day, my Dad was an avid “New Yorker” reader and likely wanted to see this based on Pauline Kael’s rave review of this film. Granted, this film was grossly inappropriate for a 10-year old to see, but I respect my Dad for trusting my intelligence and good taste in letting me see this.

Like “Pulp Fiction,” this is quite possibly the perfect film: action, suspense, comedy, violence, sex, and plot twists that seriously f–k with your brain and make you question reality. It’s cerebral, but ridiculously entertaining at the lowest common denominator as well. It’s what every Hollywood film should be like, but isn’t. Richly deserving of its 3 Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for Peter O’Toole’s turn as the Satanic director. O’Toole could have easily walked off with the Best Actor Oscar that year, had it not been for DeNiro’s turn in “Raging Bull.” (Shaking fist in the air, Stephen Colbert-style: “DENIRO!!!!!!!”)

I think this is still available on Netflix instant and if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for one of the greatest treats of your life.